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..:: The Soul ::..


Alan Schneider


              Accessing the Fourth Plane of Ascension, the Buddhic Plane – the focus of the Soul, or (in Sanskrit) Atma - . requires a leap of faith  ecause the transition from the still self-motivated consciousness of the Mental Plane into the utterly selfless consciousness of the the Buddhic Plane is so profound,

            The Mental Plane marked the terminus of Ascension in the Old Occult Mystery System – for the ancient magician, sorcerer, and witch, this was the highest level that was attainable, and those who reached it were frequently referred to as “Third Degree Ascended”.  Grounded in Pagan Polytheism, as most of the traditions contributing to the Occult were, there was an aversion present then (and one that still is present now) to the acknowledgement of such further philosophical developments as the concept of the Soul and the Logos – both of which smack of Monotheism, the ultimate trend in virtually all modern religious thought. Even apparently Polytheistic belief systems, such as Hindusim, which divides the Logos into three active elements – Brahma, the Creator God, Vishnu, the Preserver God, and Shiva, the Destroyer God – still maintains that the ultimate essence of God – the Brahman – is One Manifestation – a clear example of Monotheism. And Buddhism, which is outwardly atheistic or agnostic, yet nonetheless holds that the Non-Dual Perception of Truth is the ultimate condition of experience, still is Monotheistic (or, perhaps, Monadic) at its foundation as well. 

            The adherence to Polytheism of the Old Occult philosophy is understandable, because this spiritual conception is ultimately grounded in the rational assessment of the ego on the Physical Plane – even at the level of the Thought Form, the thread of belief is qualitative, and can be reduced to qualitative perceptual interactions occurring in their final manifestations on the Physical Plane.  And even astrology first assigns qualities to the heavenly bodies as their essences, and the same is the case with Polytheist deities – they are conceived of as acting through their qualities in the world of the senses on the Physical Plane. The Astral Archetypes are certainly also qualities of consciousness, occurring in human perception on either the Lower, Middle, or Upper Astral regions, and yet still comprehensible to the ego as objects of interpretation.  But to say that there is a level of manifestation yet beyond the Thought Form that is the summation of existence – the supreme cause of everything – requires a complete restructuring of awareness away from empirical demonstration and into a much more subtle level of perception where such manifestations are felt as Presence and intuitively sensed as Action beyond sensory perception and ego interpretation. The entertainment of the possibility of the Soul as the supreme principle of Spirit knowable requires us to set aside all that has been familiar and comfortable at the levels which came before this one, and confront many harsh and uncomfortable spiritual realities – the problem of mortality, the need for external moral standards, the imperfection of human consciousness, and the comparable imperfection of the world. The Pagan Polytheist has no reply to any of this, preferring the secure comfort of Astral Rite, Physical Ritual, and Mental Manifestation, and ascribing all intervention beyond physical action to magical influence. 

            While the Occult Practitioners of the ancient, and modern, times were satisfied with the simplicity of their paradigm, and perhaps disturbed by the possibility of something lying beyond their understanding and control, the Eastern and Western spiritual visionaries were not. Just as the minutely inexplicable perturbations in the orbits of the planets led repeatedly to the discovery of elements of the Solar System lying beyond Saturn, the most distant planetary object visible to the naked eye, so the Saints and Seers of the East and the West realized that something had to lie beyond the Mental Plane and the attendant Thought Form – a driving force producing the spiritual essence that caused both to emerge into conscious perception. So they sat in prayer, meditation, and austerity across the millennia, attempting to study what defied observation, until at least the outline of that next level had come clearly into focus. 

            The names given to this rarefied state of consciousness are many – the Superconscious Mind, the Atman, the Jivatman, the Higher Self, the Superego and the Soul, to name but a few. For our purposes here, I will use the term “Soul” to refer to this phenomenon, although all of the previous characterizations contribute in some way to the collective essence of this elusive, but still very important, condition of consciousness. But, what exactly is it that we are referring to? 

            The Soul may be defined as the spiritual essence and focus of the individual human consciousness, beyond the subconscious Id, the waking conscious ego, and all of the psychological and psychic elements of both. The Soul supersedes the Physical, Astral, and Mental Planes, hence the use of the term “Atmic Plane” to specify its psychic location in the total Mind of the Psyche. In part, the Soul exists because it must exist to explain the many otherwise perplexing behavioral events on the three preceding Planes.  Why do individuals who have otherwise superficially happy lives and want for nothing suddenly decide to turn away from opulence and affluence and live in poverty and austerity? Where do the Archetypal Symbols and Thought Forms of the Astral and Mental Planes come from?  Certainly they do not simply appear in conscious perception for no reason at all! Why will people who have successfully evaded moral issues all of their lives decide to confess to all manner of crimes and indiscretions they have committed for no discernable reason? Why are human beings so consistently compelled to identify and perform morally correct actions in life? Why is life so filled with apparently random suffering? These questions can only be answered by the existence of the Soul as our intuitive moral compass and spiritual core.  There must be a source of manifestation largely hidden from sensory observation that both directs our consciousness from the highest point of manifestation, and yet remains interactive with the first three Planes of Manifestation, and that source is the Soul.  

            Yoga, and Tantric philosophy, relegates the first three Chakras to the world of physical manifestation.  Muladhara, Chakra One, is concerned with rote survival issues – making a living, traveling, breathing, eating – external reality. Svadhisthana, Chakra Two, deals with creating and raising a family – domestic reality – and with the physical pleasures attendant to this process. Manipura, Chakra Three, addresses personal status, political power, and social position – the ultimate manifestations of physical realities as social realities.  Anahata, Chakra Four, confronts the questions of moral realities, and this is where the truly spiritual Chakra sequence begins, denoting the transition of the Kundalini onto the Atmic Plane. 

            Why is Anahata considered the focus of the Soul, compassion, and selfless love? This center of consciousness is also known as the Heart Chakra, and the emotional heart is universally considered to be the source of humanitarian concern in virtually every culture in history. Why? Perhaps it is the human association of the blood with the personal physical essence of life, and of the heart as the “center” and driver of the circulatory system. When the heart stops, physical life and immediate consciousness stops as well. Perhaps it is the sensation of security and surety that accompanies the heart beat – along with the breath, the other universally reliable consistency of physical existence. Very few insults are as derogatory as referring to someone as “heartless” – the universal implication of being completely unfeeling and uncaring.  The thrust of things here seems to be that the heart and its activity is as intimately associated with life and consciousness as anything can be, and that intimacy transfers to emotional perception on a very subtle, frequently unconscious level. So it is that my heart is the reminder of all hearts, and of all human hopes and aspirations held in the deepest personal way by others.  This physical mechanism, it would appear, is also psychological and spiritual, reminding us of the core of shared human experience in the most intimate personal fashion. And this collective bond, whether consciously acknowledged or not, is the root of compassion in the human condition. Thus, the Soul has its beginning in the collective consciousness of the human race at the point where we are all most alike – the beating hearts and hopes of humanity.  

            In this sense, the Soul is located well into the collective region of the unconscious mind and the Psyche, and this is one reason why reaching it in perception is such a daunting task – it is almost beyond even indirect observation conducted in deep trance. Paradoxically, in view of its association with the physical heart, one must be willing and able to surrender all physical sensation, and all psychological expectation, to perceptually contact the manifestation of the Soul, existing as it does in the purely spiritual realm of the Atmic Plane.  Certainly one key to conditioning oneself to begin working with Atmic perception is the acceptance of compassion as the primary human virtue, and the inherently self-motivated ego will resist this with great determination. One cannot simultaneously live for oneself and humanity – at some point, a decision must be made to accept the principle of the general good of all human beings as outweighing the personal comfort and convenience of the individual, a very tough proposition for most people to accept. Yet, this is the ultimate truth of human experience – at the deepest spiritual level, we all share a common consciousness in the Divine Light of Consciousness.  Either we are one, or we are none.  The apparent separation of our condition into distinct vessels of existence is just that – only apparent – the sensory illusion of Maya, when the Truth is that we are all United in Love under God.  The practice of compassion helps us to see this Truth in our daily lives as we struggle through the Maya of the senses, and opens the Way to the perception of the Soul. 

            The Atman, the Soul, has at least some defining characteristics that can be enumerated here. The first is innocence – no matter how fallen a given person’s life may have been, the Soul given to that person during incarnation remains clean. The next is immanence – the Soul is never any further away than the ego – we simply have learned to look away from it. It never looks away from us, not even for an instant, and is always available for consul and comfort in hard times and good alike.  The Soul is the supreme expression of Love, not only for the apparently discreet self associated with the physical body, but for everything in existence at all levels of expression.  The Soul is an extension of God manifest in human association, and God is Love above all other considerations.  Thus, the Soul is a personal and collective extension of the outpouring of God’s Love. This outpouring is expressed in the Universal Act of Creation – everything has a Soul as its spiritual essence – even rocks, trees, plants, and acts of human creation.  Exactly like the Brahman, God’s Love permeates the whole of existence forever.  Divine Love is the Brahman, and the Brahman is Divine Love. Thus, the Soul is Universal Love. 

            The Soul is also Universal Light – an intensely bright white Light that shines at the core of consciousness at the center of the Psyche.  I have personally witnessed this Light – it is omnipresent and omniscient in character – the embodiment of all knowledge and experience possible. And I have entered into this Light, into the Divine Consciousness, and experienced the inexpressible Love that is present there. In this sense, the Soul is God, and God is the Soul, and existence is the Divine Light – all else is Karma, Dharma, and Maya. It is my sincere wish for all of humanity that everyone is able to make the spiritual journey that I have made while still incarnate, and return a new being, remade by God in Love.  Namaste, all!  

            If all of these things are true about the Soul, why do we seem so persistently to return to the illusion of Maya and sensory experience? Well, obviously, due to the presence of the body of flesh which sustains that sensory experience. But this apparently simple condition is much more involved than first glance indicates. Referring to Karma, Dharma, and Maya, in the preceding paragraph, all three of these have specific, interactive relationships with the Soul, and therein lies the subtle complexity of Enlightenment and Soul Realization. 

            God expresses Universal Love through the outpouring of Creation, and the seed form of everything Created is the Soul, or Spiritual Essence, of its physical expression on the Physical Plane of objects and objective processes directly perceptible in the senses.  This realm of direct perception is Maya – the illusion of a continuum of form created through and by the action of the senses. Because this illusion is also subject to the ongoing and ever-expanding interpretation of the ego based on memory and self-interest, it is the ego interpretation of objective meaning that we “know”, not (in the case of most human observers) the spiritual vibration of the object or process in question.  We must have been seeking, and successfully achieved, spiritual perception before this spiritual vibration can be experienced.  Spiritual perception is achieved by turning away from ego processing through engaging in some suitable spiritual practice like Yoga, Cabala, or meditation.  So, one must learn an entirely new spiritual method of experiencing the Physical Plane to know the ultimate Truth of perception, the spiritual vibration, as opposed to an ego interpretation nested in illusion and Maya. 

            The spiritual vibration is the perception of the Soul of an object or process emanating on the Physical Plane – or on the successively Higher Planes – and this Soul will be identifiable by at least some of the characteristics listed earlier in this essay. And even though everything has a Soul, the human Soul is very close, perhaps of the utmost closeness, to the Logos which created it. Only the ego, and ego interpretation, prevents the direct perception of spiritual vibration, the Soul, and God – even the simple action of the physical senses by itself is not sufficiently obstructive to hold the illusion of Maya in place – this requires the influence of the ego. Now, the term Karma literally translates as action in Sanskrit, and this has many implications for perception on the Physical Plane. The first “action” to be considered here is the action of ego interpretation itself.  The ego normally has no perception of its role as observer and interpreter on the Physical Plane – it simply carries out both functions more or less automatically. Its role in either case must be brought to its attention by some kind of external epiphany or synchronicity.  This calling to personal attention is frequently the gateway to Enlightenment for the otherwise unenlightened individual, who has, prior to this event, been functionally sleep-walking through life.  When, after a long and fruitless string of enquiries and been made to the Buddha regarding his state of mind, an exasperated Initiate finally said “Well, if all of these things are what you are not, what then are you?!” the Buddha simply replied “I am awake”.  The ego thinks it is awake, and in control, when its very nature is that of the sleeper, drawing the veil of Maya across the Truth as its sole and only real function in life! That is the First Karma – the creation of Maya by the ego. The Second Karma is the nature of the ego’s perception of action on the Physical Plane – as a sequence of linear episodes governed by causal physical logic, when all action proceeds directly from God as an expression of Creation. God is in control, and Love is in control – the ego is not.  The expression of apparent causality and intervention is yet another feature of Maya, and it is the responsibility and entitlement of the Initiate to penetrate this aspect of the veil of illusion and discover the Truth concealed behind it. 

            Karma as represented by the physical formations of objects and processes on the Physical Plane, is essentially a complex series of mirrors for the Soul – on every occasion in which we suppose we are experiencing and interacting with an “object”, or series of objects, we are really interacting with a relatively slowly vibrating reflection of the personal Soul, held in place by a “piece” of God put there by the Logos as a gift to the Soul to enhance its spiritual evolution! Furthermore, what is meant through the use of the term “evolution” here is the shift in perception from the ego illusion of Maya to the total experience of the Logos as Divine Love and Light. This is the Soul’s challenge during incarnation – to Ascend in Spirit back to the highest level of Manifestation, back to God, through the attainment of God Realization. In conjunction with this process, it is the ego’s challenge to realize that it, and we ourselves as egos, are social fictions that obscure the Truth, and to then stand aside to permit the parting of the Veil of Maya while we are incarnate on the Physical Plane. 

            The process of Spiritual Evolution is accomplished by Dharma – the development  of Enlightenment as experienced through good works, devotion to Holy duty, and the attainment of compassion.  Dharma is the process by which the Soul becomes God Realized, or God-Like, during the term of incarnation on the Physical Plane.  As the journey through the Planes of Ascension progresses, and the comprehension of the higher meaning and purpose in life beyond the collection of material objects continues to develop and expand,  the ability to sense the Presence of the Soul also progresses. And along with this improved intuitive perception of the Soul, the Soul itself is spiritually activated and enhanced as a more God Realized entity in a combined process of Ascension. In essence, Being is quite literally Becoming on the Atmic Plane, and this characteristic of spiritual growth continues in this way on all of the Planes of Ascension to follow. 

            Once the overarching importance of the Soul as the driver of consciousness and personal focus of Ascension is comprehended by the Initiate – and this may be the ongoing work of a lifetime of sacrifice and austerity – and the principles of selfless love and compassion are incorporated as the foundation pieces of spiritual practice, thus infusing the Heart Chakra with the Kundalini, the Path is open to the succession of Planes and corresponding Chakras beyond. The work of Soul Realization in the Heart is progressive, and as it moves forward, so does the Kundalini, carrying the Ascension process with it into the remaining Planes and Chakras. Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned in working with the Heart is that of patience, as so much imperfection is revealed and accepted for the sake of humility, compassion, and the Soul.  

            The next essay in the Ascension Series deals with the Atmic Plane, the Fifth Plane of Ascension. As might be expected, this Plane is involved with the next step beyond Soul Realization, known in the Eastern Mysteries as Self Realization. The Atmic Plane is analogous to the Fifth Chakra, Vishuddah, the Chakra of Divine Intonation, and the process of Divine Communication – not only the inner communion of the Soul and Logos, but external communication about both, and about spiritual living in the material world. I welcome your return to the Spiritual Ascension Series, and the illumination of the Atmic Plane!


                                                                                - With Love, Alan -

                                                                          (CR2008, Alan Schneider)


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